Persona 4 Golden User Review
Long story short, I walked out of the store with a Vita and an 8gb memory card…and no games. Ahh the allure of a shiny new object. Fast forward one year, and I have effectively rediscovered why I love gaming. The first game I finished on my Vita was Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions, but since then I have picked up nine Vita games, several PSP titles, and a few PSone Classics. I am having a blast with Sony’s handheld and the newest addition to my collection, Persona 4 Golden, has almost justified the Vita’s existence by itself. (Skip to the summary at the end if you are impatient)
Persona 4 Golden has been praised by users and critics alike, and GamesRadar actually had it listed in their top ten games of all time (their lists are…wonky, to say the least). I loved Persona 3 Portable, and I recently finished P2: Innocent Sin (good, not great), so Persona 4 Golden was an absolute must-have for me…after a price drop, of course. For 39.99, P4G offers more content than most full console games, but for 29.99 it is one of the best values you can find.
If you are not familiar with the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona series, it is a very “J-pop”-inspired, emo-looking game. I was initially turned off by the modern-day setting and the odd gameplay mechanics of the series, but I’ve come to my senses. This game is a JRPG all the way, from the turn based combat, to the build-a-team-to-save-the-world plot — it’s got it all.
P4G has received about as much praise as a game can get, but here’s a little more.
The first thing you will notice when you pop the P4G cartridge into your Vita is that the game was custom-made for Sony’s handheld. The colors explode off of the screen, the menus are intuitive and easily navigable, and the music is refreshing and up-beat. Even if you don’t like J-pop, some of these catchy tunes will be revolving in your head long after your finish playing. The game still looks like its PS2 counterpart, but heck if it doesn’t feel perfect on a portable.
I never had the opportunity to play Persona 4 when it originally released back in 2008, but the interface and menus are an absolute joy to navigate. The game really holds your hand early on, and introduces you to the mechanics inch by inch. One of my few complaints — P4G takes a while to get going. The first hour or so is essentially on the rails, but if you simply enjoy the story as it begins to unfold, the game will open up in no time at all.
Speaking of menus, the shopping in P4G is potentially the most simple-to-use system I’ve yet encountered. When you buy a weapon, the game asks you if you want to equip it. Well, since you asked, I guess I do. Then, the game asks if you want to sell your previously equipped item. So fast, so easy! If only real life shopping were similar.
The story of P4G begins with a mysterious murder that rocks the small town of Inaba. The plot is similar to other games in the SMT series, but since the writing, pacing, and delivery of the SMT games is so fantastic, that is by no means a complaint. As a new student at the local high school, it is up to you and your new-found friends to uncover the mystery while also discovering the mysteries that lie within yourselves. Secrets drive the storyline, but the characters and setting make the world come to life in a way few others games are able.
Persona games are not praised for their graphics, but they ARE praised for their mature, emotional storylines. P4G, like Persona 3 before it, nails character interaction, even if the voice acting can be annoying at times. Kids act like kids, teenagers act like teenagers, and adults…well you get the point. You will grow to love certain characters, and hate others. You will feel their highs and lows as P4G carries you through its story while dealing with serious topics like pride, regret, bullying, suicide, and much more.
One of the most unique aspects of the Persona series is the Social Link aspect. The game system uses a calendar, which means that how you spend your time is very important. Studying can raise knowledge, which can lead to stat enhancements, while working a part-time job can build funds which can be used to purchase better weapons and armor. Most importantly, you can choose to spend time with certain characters. As you develop these relationships, you grow the potential of the personas you are able to create and summon in battle.
Think of personas like summon monsters, each of which have unique skills and attributes which will aid or hinder you in battle. The battle system is based on elemental strengths and weaknesses. Hit an opponent’s weakness and their defense will open up, thus allowing you to perform an all-out attack. The system is simple, but failing to discover an enemy’s weakness can lead to your party’s demise. Battles are fair and can be challenging, especially late in the game or on higher difficulties.
One of the coolest additions to gameplay is the multiplayer feature. During non-dungeon hours, a simple screen tap will show you how other players spent their time. This can help you determine the best cause of action, especially when it comes to social links. In dungeons, a tap on the screen can signal an SOS, which allows other players to heal your party and cheer you on in written text. It is a simple feature, but it can provide the boost you need to make it to the next floor of the dungeon. The multiplayer feature is a throwaway in some cases, but it makes the world of P4G feel a bit more populated, which is awesome.
P4G also has a NG+ mode, which I have not yet experienced. I have never been a platinum-chaser (I have only one, Soundshapes), but I may at least give this game a shot.
Aesthetically speaking, Persona 4 looks about as good as a remastered Playstation 2 game. Let’s call a spade a spade — P4G is not going to knock your socks off, but if this game has one thing, it is style. This is about as crisp and clean as it gets, and the anime cutscenes are gorgeous. The colors are bright, the textures as smooth, and the whole game just feels complete. That is quite a compliment in an age of games that require constant updates and DLC to finish the experience.
P4G can be praised all day for what it does right. It is an absolute classic, but it is not without a few minor faults. First, many of the enemy and persona designs are carbon copies of Persona 3. Some of the personas are literally exactly the same, and when I encountered certain enemies, I found myself saying, “Your weakness was lightning in Persona 3, why has it changed now?” The enemy designs are extremely unique, so I guess there is no shame in reusing them.
My other two complaints are based on my own personal experience, and some players may not have the same problems. Some of the voice acting can be grating, and there is a TON of voiceover in this game. Almost every conversation with a main character is fully voiced, which is great, but some of the voices (Chie, I’m looking at you!) are a bit over-the-top. The other issue is the game’s pacing. With a sixty-eighty hour game, this will almost always be a problem. Maybe I have gotten used to twenty-thirty hour games, but certain parts can drag.
Persona 4 was considered one of the best RPGs ever when released in 2008, so it is no surprise that an improved, updated version sits near the top of the gaming heap. If you have never tried a Persona game before, I still say start with 3, but I also believe that P4 is a considerably better game. The storyline is charming yet heavy, the characters are complex, the battle system is simple yet challenging, and the overall style is completely unique. If you didn’t like Persona 3, P4G will not change your mind about the series. For everyone else, make this gem your next Vita purchase — you will not regret it.
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.